What Causes Diabetes?

There are two primary types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 (formerly called juvenile diabetes) is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy cells in the pancreas, the organ that produces a hormone called insulin that’s used to control and regulate levels of sugar in the blood (glucose). Type 1 most commonly begins during childhood. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that’s more common among adults who are overweight or obese, although increases in childhood obesity are resulting in increased rates of type 2 diabetes among children. In type 2, the body does not process insulin correctly, enabling glucose levels to rise. Diabetes can also occur during pregnancy. This third type of diabetes is called gestational diabetes. Diabetes is more common among those with a family history of the disease, as well as those with high blood pressure, people who are obese and older men and women.

How is Diabetes Diagnosed?

Diabetes is typically diagnosed with a blood test. Urinalysis can also be helpful in diagnosing diabetes and managing treatment. People with diabetes may have symptoms like:

  • increased thirst
  • increased need to urinate
  • unintentional weight loss
  • increased hunger
  • blurry vision

Some people with diabetes or prediabetes (elevated blood sugar levels that occur in a person at risk for diabetes) may have few or no noticeable symptoms.

Why is Managing Diabetes so Important?

Without proper treatment, diabetes can cause an array of serious health issues, including:

  • kidney damage
  • vision loss
  • cardiovascular disease
  • nerve damage
  • lower limb amputation
  • seizures
  • coma
  • death

How is Diabetes Treated?

Although diabetes cannot be cured, it can be managed. Most patients with diabetes will need to test their glucose levels several times each day using a simple device to draw a drop of blood from the fingertip. Insulin and glucose levels can be balanced with insulin pills or injections. Eating a healthy diet high in fiber and low in sugars is necessary, and it’s also important to lose excess weight and to be more physically active. Having routine office visits is also essential for avoiding more serious complications and for identifying complications that do occur in their earliest stages so they can be treated.